Thursday, 24 November 2011

Accurev 5.3

Been working with the latest version of Accurev this week.

The latest version now uses POSTGREsql as its back end, replacing the previous DB. Carrying out an upgrade from one to the other will be a big job, however I am kind of looking forward to the challenge.

The testing I have carried out so far seems to show a massive improvement in speed when populating and creating a workspace.

Once my upgrade is done, I plan to hook the whole thing into my continuous delivery platform, more to follow.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Commodore CDTV

My latest purchase, a Commodore CDTV has arrived and has been set up for use. Essentially, this is just a tarted up Amiga 600 with a nice, sleek black case and some different input methods.

This purchase was quite a steal, the example I got came complete with a matching black floppy drive as well as a matching black HDD, keyboard and mouse. The CDTV was primarily a CD based console that was designed to fit in with your stereo equipment under the telly. I remember this being advertised by Special Reserve back in the day, but never really knew much about it. Never saw an ad on TV for it, which was kind of odd for a Commodore product. Being one of the earliest CD based systems, it didnt have a motorised CD tray, instead you had to place your CD Rom into a caddy and plug that into the machine. This will seem very odd for people nowadays, especially as we dont really have that many motorised trays about any more. I am not sure as to why Commodore went for this configuration, to keep costs down perhaps?

The joypad that comes with the console is way before its time. It is wireless, something that is the norm now, but in the old days was not. It is kind of similar to the Jaguar joypad, in so far that it has so many buttons, this was primarily down to the fact that the device was pitched as a hybrid console/entertainment device (in a similar way to the CDTV). I haven't been able to find any decent titles for it yet to test out the joypad, but I have been able to boot it up into its computer mode. Apparently, there is a jumper on the main-board that will convert the device into an Amiga 600. I plan to install a switch so that I can try this out. I have a copy of Street Fighter 2 for the Amiga 600 that I am anxious to try out.

Unfortunately though, there doesn't seem to be any way I can hook this device up to the Internet, which I think is a bit of a shame.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Just fixed my Jaguar and Jaguar CD

Good news, my bargain basement Jaguar and CD expansion is now working.

I was pretty lucky when I managed to pick both these consoles up at once from eBay for just under £80, anyone who is in to consoles knows that the Jaguar CD normally goes for a few hundred pounds at least. It arrived a few months back with no PSU's, AV cable, joypad or games. A quick search on eBay landed me some PSU's, a S-Video cable and a joypad. More recently, I picked up a copy of the seminal Alien VS Predator.

If I had been given one of these, with Alien VS Predator, back in 1994, I would have thought it was the coolest thing ever. These days though, with all the wonderful HD games we get on modern consoles, I cant help but think that this is showing its age quite a bit. One thing I do want to do though, is defend the much hated on joypad - it really isn't that bad.

You will see a lot of people claiming that this is the worst joypad ever created. Now that I have used one, I cant help but think the haters may never have actually used one. Yes, it is big and yes it has loads of buttons - but is it any different to a controller on a modern console? Both the Xbox 360 and PS3 feature controllers with up to 14 buttons (if you include the d-pad), 15 on the 360 controller if you include the back button (a la Halo). On its own, the Jaguar controller has 15 input buttons.

A popular topic for debate with the controller is the addition of that keypad, people ridiculed it at the time as pointless. But, if you look back into gaming history, you will find that there are numerous successful consoles that have implemented the same button configuration. It wasn't really pointless, but instead a flashback to consoles from the 1980's. The worst thing about the controller is the d-pad - it is horrible. Very stiff and very clunky, when you compare it to a Sega 6-button pad, it is a complete fail.

Overall, I am pleased that I got this console up and running, especially for such a low price, but I don't think I will be playing it much in the future. I plan to complete Alien VS Predator and I also plan to purchase Kasumi Ninja for nothing more than the sheer hilarity of the game. But other than that, it iwill just be an interesting, albeit fully functional, curio. One thing I definitely keep my eyes out for is the official 18 button controller, it has an extra three large red buttons, probably for aspirations of getting a Street Fighter onto the console.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Getting the Primary Key Column Name in SQL Server 2008 R2

This might be something that is obvious to most people working in SQL Server, but for me this was a new one.

I needed to get the column name for the primary key in a table - I am working on a migration just now (no great surprise there ;)) and I needed to get this column name in order to carry out some double posting (once in the new system and next in the old system).

It was surprisingly easy to do this

This simple piece of code gets the name of the column that is your primary key. Short and simple and a new one for myself.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Apple Bandai Pippin

Just took delivery of my Apple Bandai Pippin this afternoon. This was a console that I purchased back in February from Ebay. It came from Japan, so the shipping prices were exorbitant for airmail, leaving me the option of surface mail.

It isn't brand new, like I expected it to be, but it is in very good condition for a second hand device that has travelled most of the world to get to me. I also had to pay £20 in customs fees, which was a bit of a pain.

The device itself was released in the late 90's and was designed by Apple along with Bandai to represent a significant threat to the dominant consoles of the era. I remember this console being announced in a UK video games mag - I forget which one just now, possibly Edge. Compared to the announcements made by Sega for the Saturn or Nintendo for the N64 which took up multiple pages, the humble Pippin had to make to do with a tiny quarter of a page at the back of the magazine.

This console is pretty notable for the time, like the Sega Dreamcast which was released around about the same time, it supports VGA. For the Dreamcast you needed a VGA box and I don't think every game supported this technology. The back of the Pippin is pretty well equipped, it has the regular AV connections as well as a VGA port. There is also a switch that lets you select VGA, PAL or NTSC as the output. There is also a connection for a keyboard as well as a pstn modem. This starts to give a larger picture concerning Apples intention for this device. Pretty early on in its development, Apple decided they couldn't compete against the Playstation or Nintendo N64 (I think they were the dominant force at the end of the 1990's), so they took the brave step of marketing this as an internet capable machine. Apple also asked for a very large amount of money for the Pippin, which has hardly any games. Apple took the position that it was a cut down Mac - which it is, but also tried to sell the pick up and play-a-bility of the device, which is fine.

Like the Dreamcast, the Pippin uses a proprietary operating system - Apple OS 7.3 I think. On powering on the console, its Mac heritage is plain to see. The console comes with three cd-rom's, one contains office utilities like Word, Paint and Email, another comes with Internet Explorer 3 for the Mac. Unfortunately, I don't read Japanese so I am not to sure what the third disc holds.

Again, like the Dreamcast, the Pippin supports a modem. Unlike the Dreamcast, you get the modem in the box with the console, and can get up and running on the internet in next to no time, as long as you have access to a dialup service. The colour scheme and button layout on the joypad is also very similar to the Dreamcast and PSX of the time. One thing notable about the joypad is that it is one of the best joypads I have every held. It has a total of eleven buttons, four buttons on the right hand side, two shoulder buttons and three buttons towards the base of the controller. One really nice touch is the addition of a trackball, this makes navigating the menus in a PC-like fashion a breeze. There are also expansion ports on the underside of the device, however I have no idea what they were for.

This is a pretty expensive machine to pick up, mine cost over £300, although at the time of writing, there were quite a few sub-£200 versions for sale on Ebay. If you do end up buying one from Japan, which is most likely, then you need to factor in the shipping fees. The console is quite heavy making airmail very expensive (probably half the cost of the console again).

I am not sure as to why the console never took off, perhaps due to the high price and the lack of decent third party games were the biggest contributors. Or maybe it was down to Apple not knowing how market the device. I think possibly this is more like it, Apple didn't sell it as a video game console, but they didn't really try and sell it as a Mac replacement either. One thing it definitely was, and that is ahead of its time. Just like the Dreamcast, the Pippin offers functionality we would expect to see in a console today - internet connectivity, rich media etc.. Put it next to the original model of the Xbox 360 and you would be hard pressed to say that one device was released at the end of the twentieth century.

Overall, I am pretty pleased with this purchase. This is one of three expensive consoles I wanted to get, so this has been successfully crossed off my list. Now, I will scour the Internet and Ebay in the hope of finding a game or two for this console and wonder why this failed so miserably, given Apple then went on to sell things like the iPod, managing to convince everyone in the world + dog that they needed one...

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Nintendo 3DS and how I fell in love with the DS all over again.

I had a 3DS on pre-order at Game for a very long time. As soon as the 25th of March hit, I picked up my new 3DS and 3D Street Fighter IV on the way into work. I cant say I was blown away with the 3D feature - it is pretty cool, but instead I found the bundled apps and games to be slightly more engaging, and definitely highlighted Nintendo's position as an innovator.

Playing the latest iteration of Street Fighter on a portable console is novel enough, playing it 3D just makes you smile like a little kid. However the Augmented Reality games that come with the 3DS make you really step back for a bit an take stock of this new device. By simply placing a card on my desk and pointing my 3DS at it, dragons started to claw their way out of hole dug out of what looks to be my desk. No, I wasn't on any drugs. One of the bundled games relies on AR cards to unlock some functionality. Whilst this will not be everyone's cup of tea, it does highlight the fact that Nintendo is one of video gamings greatest innovators.

I am not sure how much of a success the 3DS will be when compared to the DS, that console literally printed money for Nintendo. But one thing the 3DS has definitely done for me is play almost all of my DS games again. That means Mario Kart, New Super Mario Bros. and, one of my all time favourites, 42 All Time Classic Games. And that is fine for me, until they release the 3DS versions of course ;)